Angry Robot

Some recent iPhone Games

Zen Bound


If Bandai Toy Company can cease & desist anyone who even so much as thinks “Godzilla,” it would only be fair if Bodhidharma was granted trademark in perpetuity for the term “Zen”. It’s used to grant instant connotations of spiritual high-mindedness to many items that may or may not deserve it, which is a most un-zen word game. Such is the case with “Zen Bound,” the $5 iPhone game being greeted with surprising accolades from game reviewers.

Zen Bound is a puzzle game in which you wrap wooden objects with rope. As rope touches wood, paint spreads, and the game keeps track of the surface you have covered. When you have achieved 70% coverage, you can move on to the next object, and they get increasingly complicated. I will say that this makes perfect use of the touch screen. It takes about five seconds to get used to rotating objects with your fingers, and then you’re in the game. It couldn’t be done on anything but the iPhone (okay, possibly the DS). Also, the design is absolutely beautiful. What I will also say is that this is basically a tech demo. There are no variations in gameplay to speak of, and it fails to ignite the sort of compulsive addiction that makes simple games like Pac-Man infinitely replayable. I suppose you don’t expect much from a $5 puzzle game, but then again, $5 buys a lot of game on the App Store, and I hesitate to recommend something that may only last you an hour or two.

Zen Bound – iTunes Store link



This thing has been tearing up the charts, squatting atop the App Store sales list like a vampire on his prey – and rightly so. Even with the price up to $3 from $1, it’s still a crazy steal. It’s basically a dual-stick shooter like Geometry Wars or Everyday Shooter, except that you control a gun-crazy monster fighter, as if John Rambo was crushed into a fine powder and injected into the arm of Dr. van Helsing. It controls via two virtual pads at the bottom of the screen, which works surprisingly well. Wave after wave of new species of horror creature comes at you, and you fend them off by upgrading your guns and redeeming ‘perks’ (move faster, do more damage, etc.). It offers three different maps and four different game modes. The downsides: 1. that’s a pretty stupid name too, and 2. it’s possible to work your dude into a corner where he’s obscured by your thumbs on the virtual pads. Not a deal-breaker though; this is an excellent little game.

iDracula – iTunes Store link



Similar to Zen Bound, this is a puzzle game with artistic merit and some clever use of the iPhone’s technology. Unlike Zen Bound, it introduces new gameplay elements to keep play fresh. It’s also more action-ey, more addicting, and fiendishly hard.

Eliss makes use of multitouch – it requires you to get more than one finger involved. The general idea is you have to keep different-coloured planets separate, while joining or splitting them with those of their own hue until you can match them with a similarly-sized supernova and clear them from the board. This holds true until stage three, when vortexes appear that exert gravity upon the poor unsuspecting planets, and require a huge finger commitment to keep them from colliding. That’s as far as I’ve gotten.

The art style is retro-fantastic, with jagged, simple shapes and an 8-bit score. I would heartily recommend this game were it not for the brutal difficulty. Multiple fingers requires dividing up your attention multiple ways, and we only each get one brain, after all. However, if you’re the masochistic sort who doesn’t mind failing a level multiple times before finally prevailing, then this is a good game for you.

Eliss is currently $4.

Eliss – iTunes Store link

Galaxy on Fire


This promises to be a 3D space adventure, in which you play a mercenary, performing missions, shooting bad guys, trading goods, and upgrading your ship. In other words, it’s the sort of game my brain plays when it’s thinking of what heaven must be like. Except – EXCEPT! – the control is terrible. TERRIBLE! (Okay, I’ll stop doing that now. NOW! Sorry, that was it.)

Where was I? Right, shaking my fist at the control on this biznitch. You have a choice between touch and accelerometer control, which is like a choice between vomit soup and turd cake. The calibration is all out of whack on either – you’ll feel like the world’s shittiest space captain, calling out “sorry! I can’t steer this thing!” as the guy who paid you to protect him goes down in flames. You try to adjust the sensitivity, and even that is hard to do accurately. Yup, score this one as Hurried Mobile Ports 1, iPhone 0. Hopefully the controls can be tweaked in a later update, as I’m pretty sure there’s a decent game here somewhere.

Galaxy on Fire is currently $6.

Galaxy on Fire – iTunes Store link